Tag Archives: professionalism

Continuous Improvement and Poker Face

There are days I love my job, today was one of them.

I’m a big believer that nothing is ever set in stone, nor should it. I had the privilege and pleasure to be part of my second experience to review current processes with a cross sectional team to change things for the better. I swear that my employer’s unspoken motto is akin to Big Brother, “expect the unexpected.”

Continuous improvement has many names depending upon the industry. It is a long, painful process. It has proved interesting to see how the “future state” and “pie in the sky” end result actually implements. Luckily, regardless of how close reality is to the envisioned future state, improvements are generally the result.

Even when not leading the team (although it could be done by HR for any company) it shows just how much HR (be it generalist or a specialist) are project managers. Let’s face it, if it is an I-9 Audit; AAP; annual enrollment; updating the on boarding process; reviewing job descriptions, salary structures, and employee alignment – HR is nothing but projects and improving things!

Another very important part of HR is having a poker face. I read in the past year a great article about how to improve yours and been practicing! (Read my admitting to failing at it here.)I felt that I did a fabulous job at using it in the meeting today, only emitting one raised eyebrow over the course of 9 hours (while on 4 hours sleep and being in physical pain.) But I know that I have mastered it due to a recent four day ordeal in my personal life where despite being under tremendous stress and difficult situations I held it together for the 90% of the time.

Do you have any stories or tips to share about continuous improvement or poker faces?

Chief Financial Officer

For the past tw0 years I have had the honor and privilege of being the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a nonprofit. The organization is a 501(c)7 with annual gross receipts under $50,000.

Image from http://myob.com.au/

I have learned a lot in these years about accounting, forecasting, budgeting, insurance, tax, credit, statistics, and reporting. In the beginning I relied heavily upon resources from preparing for my PHR and World at Works’s Accounting and Finance for the Human Resources Professional. I got to expand my experience in leadership, as the role was an Officer of the organization (reporting to the CEO and on the same level as the COO) as well as management as I had two “minions” that reported to me and assisted me with various items (one was keying data, the other with preparing taxes.)

In my tenure, I accomplished all of the goals I set those 26 months ago. Let me illustrate the situation when I started the role: 5 months before I took the role the former CFO was found to have (and admitted to) stealing funds from the organization. Due to on going investigations I can’t say much, but corporate counsel has stated I can share it was tens of thousands of dollars. The organization, being 100% volunteer run and operations financed 100% by donations this was a huge challenge to take on.

I am very happy to state that through my aforementioned skills (budgeting, etc) and working with a fantastic Executive team, I was able to repay nearly $10,000 in debt; build up a financial cushion of $10,000+; create reporting where previously there was none; documented the heck out of policies and procedures for a layman to understand and is also compliant with FASB standards. Repairing the trust of the organization donors was of paramount importance, to which I went to great lengths to improve transparency surrounding all financial matters. I reduced financial waste with the new procedures/policies saving the organization $1,000+ annually. My biggest accomplishment was playing forensic accountant and going through the previous three years of records to audit, amend taxes, and provide documentation towards the on going actions against the former CFO.

I am very proud of this accomplishment and experience. Like all good things, this is coming to an end. I have submitted my resignation. Being that it was a volunteer position (aka no pay) and it takes a lot of time (30-40 hour a week!) I feel I need to redirect my energy and time into that which pays me and being a more well rounded individual for better balance, grounding, and thus leave me able to offer more in what I do. I look forward to training my successor and ensuring that they are set up for success, so that the organization can also be successful.


http://opencloudconsortium.org/At my work I’m in groundhog mode: keep my head down, do my work (well), and just get by. It is not something I would say is worthy of A or rockstar players, is not something I’m proud of, and has a number of reasons why that I won’t go into.

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a formal recognition from a new hire that I was “mentoring.” Mentoring is in quotes as that is what the program is called, it is not mentoring as most would think.

“Your  guidance and support has given me a fresh outlook on innovation. Having you as a mentor has made a difference in the professional I want to be in my role. Thank you for all that you have shared!”

I appreciate the managing up she is doing. But, I feel a bit chagrined. I told her what is realistic. ‘In 20 months I have never used this program. Be aware it exists and what it offers, don’t stress about the ins and outs of how to use it.’

I dunno. I don’t think I’m innovative.

Yet, on the flip side, at the nonprofit I volunteer for, in training my successor as Director of the Department of Administration I find that >75% of what the department does is due to my seeing a need and getting the programs initiated. This could be seen as innovation. But again, getting performance reviews in place, applicant tracking, showing multi-year trends in reports, adding photos to the Annual Report – those aren’t innovative type things.

What do you think is innovative? Have you done anything that is viewed as such? Share!

Poker Face

There are a lot of instances – personal and professional – where a poker face would serve one well. This week I saw a great example of an instance where it is imperative to have a poker face – when sitting on a panel discussion in front of a bunch of HR folks.

There were four panelist for the SHRM Atlanta to discuss succession planning. I’ve got two pages of notes from their suggestions that was great for professional education as well as take aways for the nonprofit I volunteer for. Double win!

One panelist was a “question hog” that took a long time to answer questions. Sometimes their answers were brillant, others they were just meandering and not something to translate to other businesses. I felt bad for her. However, whenever she spoke, I was entertained by another panelist that did not have a good poker face – and kept rolling their eyes at this person.

Oh yes, it was entertainment.

However, I felt bad because I formed two opinions of the eye roller – a negative one for not being straight faced and for not showing professional courtesy to the woman who was speaking. However, she was very well spoken, incredibly knowledgeable, and frankly looked and acted like someone I would want to work for.

Do you judge others based on how transparent their thoughts/emotions are? How do you reconcile that against other factors? And most importantly – how do you practice to create that perfect poker face?

I ask because I need to practice myself!